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You Can Write Devastatingly Effective Docs - Barbara Minto and the Pyramid Principle

Andrew Hao
October 26, 2022

You Can Write Devastatingly Effective Docs - Barbara Minto and the Pyramid Principle

Uh-oh, you wrote another meandering doc where your reviewers lost the plot. Maybe you just sent out a long-winded email announcement that was met with more confusion. Or your tech spec is met with that famous question: "what are we solving here again?"

What if there was a way to focus your ideas and communicate them clearly and concisely? Barbara Minto did just that in 1985 in her seminal book, The Pyramid Principle and its now-famous SCQA framework. How might we learn from her so that we can be effective written communicators in a remote work world?

Join us as we help a beleaguered tech lead edit their team's product spec by learning about the key components of the SCQA framework. We'll learn how to deliver the core ideas first, build logical, deductive arguments, and win approval and achieve alignment along the way. You'll leave with a clear understanding of how to uplevel your technical communication with leadership and your colleagues!

Andrew Hao

October 26, 2022


  1. You Can Write Devastatingly Effective Docs! Andrew Hao @andrewhao g9labs.com

  2. We are excited to announce that our team plans to

    move to cloud-based SaaS services. However, we need to control our costs in order to remain profitable. We plan to use a mix of private and public clouds to host our applications. We will use Google Cloud at first to host our Pizza Browsing endpoints, but because of the high cost variances we expect to need to also leverage Azure and AWS for other services. We will use a hybrid approach to migrate our applications. We will use containerization to move our applications to the cloud, and we will use scripts to automate the ⁉ What is going on here? 2
  3. The Gift of Clarity 3

  4. Barbara Minto, Trailblazer 4

  5. 5

  6. The Minto Pyramid 📐 aka “The Pyramid Principle” 6

  7. The Intro The Structure & 2⃣ Two parts 7

  8. SCQA The Pyramid & 2⃣ Two parts 8

  9. SCQA 📜 The Intro 9

  10. Situation C Q A 10

  11. Situation Complication Q A 11

  12. Situation Complication Question A 12

  13. Situation Complication Question Answer 13

  14. S C Q A Our annual attrition rate is usually

    X% In this tight job market, it has gone up to Y% What can we do to retain key talent? We believe we should… ✏ You try it 14
  15. The Pyramid 🏛 The Structure 15

  16. ✏ You try it Assemble task force to evaluate fully-remote

    work Move from annual to semi-annual promo cycles Overhaul our talent philosophy The Answer Recalibrate salaries with latest market data The Key Points … … … … … … … … … The Data 16
  17. Let’s see some more! 🪴Pyramids, pyramids, pyramids 17

  18. S C Q A Normally our product is reliable We

    have suffered several major outages recently How can we restore product reliability? We believe we should… 18
  19. ✏ You try it Review operational metrics regularly in meetings

    Create slack by reducing team load Revamp the on-call process The Answer Decompose shared rotation into multiple rotations The Key Points … … … … … … … … … The Data 19
  20. S C Q A We have been focusing on top-line

    user growth by measuring Daily Active Users (DAU) We are unable to retain these new users, who leave our platform after an average of Y months How can we have a more holistic measurement of business performance? We believe we should… 20
  21. ✏ You try it It measures the right things for

    customer retention It measures the right things for everything else Change our north star metric from DAU to XYZ The Answer It measures the right things for customer acquisition The Key Points … … … … … … … … … The Data 21
  22. Think before you write 22 💡 The key takeaway

  23. Happy writing! More pyramids! @andrewhao 23